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Tonight at the Sidewinder, husband/wife hip-hop team Riders Against the Storm (who just marked their ninth wedding anniversary) celebrates the release of their new mixtape “RE:Mixtape.” Mixing in snippets from Alabama Shakes, Bayonne (Roger Sellers), Ibeyi and Lianne La Havas with originals like the club bumper “Booty Sweat” the tape is a thoroughly engrossing collection that moves from high energy bangers to moody atmospherics. We caught up with Chaka Mandla Mhambi Mpeanaji and Qi Dada Ras to chat about the new album and what’s next for RAS.
Can you talk about the idea of remix culture? From my perspective everything from your fashion sense to the spiritual underpinnings of your work reflects the profound way Riders Against the Storm embraces remix culture.
Qi Dada: Everything about hip hop and everything about this western hemisphere for the last 500 years has been about remixes. Some of it is appropriation and some of it is genuine homage to your sum parts. Most afro-caribbean religions are an amalgamation of all the spiritual practices that people encounter under their circumstances. They were not hiding anything. Often times it gets told that they were hiding their African religion but the truth is they were comfortable with the amalgamation of realities. That’s what we are. That’s what our music reflects.
Chaka: Hip Hop is all about remixing what you think is fresh – taking it and flipping it so it represents who you are. Our energy made Kangols, Adidas, Pumas, everything we touched fresh. We gave these objects new meaning and life. That’s a big part of who Qi and I are as artists.
Also, mixtapes were a huge thing when I came up culturally. Every DJ had one (on cassette), and they used it as a vehicle to ‘put people on’ to what was new. With the RE:Mixtape project, we wanted some of that energy reflected. In this case, we are putting a new group of folks (that don’t know us yet) on to what’s new/good with RAS. We expect to reach a whole new fan base around the world with this release. Shout out to DJ Protege for being the one to help us finalize that energy.[youtube ]
What was your process like working on this mixtape? You said it came together fast?
Qi Dada: The mixtape came together fairly quickly but has been a brain child for some time. We had a variety of beats sitting on our hard drive and we wanted to find the right recipe to have them all live together.
Chaka: The idea became real when I was at home for the holidays. I was organizing my pops’ records, and listening to a lot of stuff, funk, disco, jazz, and I realized the “RE:Mixtape” had to have some of that vibe in there. Some of our influences. That’s where those interludes come in.
We set the deadline by booking the show at The Sidewinder. Once the date was set, we had to finish that joint, so the pressure was on for sure! We didn’t get much sleep going in and out of the studio, writing songs, coming up with the arrwork, shooting videos, and more!
Qi Dada: That pressure is also part of our life. So that expression is present in a very wonderful way.
The Lianne La Havas “Green and Gold” remix is one of my favorite tracks on this mix. I’m so used to seeing you get hype and I really enjoyed the quieter, more introspective feel. How did that track come together?
Qi Dada: We were working with Mike Rey de Leon and he told us he had worked on remix of hers. We heard it and we really enjoyed it.
Chaka: Always been a Lianne La Havas fan. When Mike played the remix, it was just golden. Hearing it months ago (summer 2015) basically solidified the idea of doing a remix project, even though the direction wasn’t realized until months later.
Qi Dada: We have a myriad of sides to us. There is a quiet reflective, vulnerable side. We’re happy to let people see more of that. I am also speaking kreyol on the mixtape and Chaka is doing a little singing. New things in general.
What is one thing about RAS you hope people take away from this mixtape?
Chaka: I want people to bump the heck out of this joint. I want them hollering at their cousins, aunties, and uncles like, ‘yo, you know ’bout these fools from Austin?’ I want people to jam this hard when they are driving to work, chilling on the beach, hanging at the family reunion, or cooking their favorite meal. I want them to feel connected to our energy.
Qi Dada: We want people to walk away from the mixtape recognizing that we are interested in really bringing a new energy. We want people to know that we have grown and become more comfortable with more aspects of who we are. Breaking through feels really really good. Being quiet is very powerful. Taking charge is very powerful and we are the sum total of everything we encounter.
You’ve started 2016 grinding hard. What does the rest of the year look like for RAS?
Qi Dada: Wow it’s hard to believe that it’s only 6 weeks into 2016 but already so much has happened. Look for us to be performing a lot more outside of Austin all along you know the coast in abroad you can also expect a new album this August. We are going to be providing new offerings to people and expanding growing lightning projects we already have so we’re excited.
Chaka: 2016 is the year of RAS. This mixtape is just the appetizer: a global ‘gateway drug’ to the enchanting and euphoric experience that is RAS. All I see from here are open skies, and our wings are spread wide. You will see us in the places we have always dreamed of, and grinded non-stop to see. We have to give nothing but thanks and praise to the fans and family members that have shown the love and support to get us to this point. We stand on the shoulders of giants, who also stood on the shoulders of giants.
The “RE:Mixtape” release party takes place Friday, Feb 12 at Sidewinder. Doors at 9 p.m. $10 at the door (includes a limited edition hard copy of the CD). More info.[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/195072660" params="visual=true&show_artwork=true&maxwidth=640&maxheight=960" width="100%" height="450" iframe="true" /]